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Fishing - Dry Fly School

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Dry-Fly School-Out of the discussion arose the doctrine of the education of trout. The chalk streams fishers laid special emphasis upon the virtues of the dry-fly as an antidote to the growing difficulty of angling. They insisted that in rivers where the trout used to rise with regularity and confidence, and where sport might be reckoned upon as a tolerable certainty, the fish had become shy, suspicious, and in point of fact educated. The old-fashioned methods of fishing with a cast of artificial flies for such unnatural trout were deprecated as obsolete, and the superior attractions of a single artificial fly, made very small, dressed with upstanding wings, cast with a scientific calculation of direction and force never dreamt of previously-the sine qua non being to deliver the imitation fly in the exact presentment of the natural insect, and in a manner that would ensure its floating upon the stream as if it were the real thing-were urged with eloquent enthusiasm. It was in this way that the dry-fly school began to acquire a name of its own ; converts were made, and are still giving in adherence; and one of the results has been the evolution of an entirely different character of artificial fly. The dry-fly school of angling is said to include among its members some dogmatists who will scarcely admit the wet-fly brethren to brevet rank, but there is room for all and reason on both sides.

In mountain-born waters, like the trout streams of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, the fascinating old-fashioned style of fishing with a cast of flies rules as if nothing had happened; the rapid rivers must be fished in that way, and the master fly-fisher for trout is the man who, regulating his methods to the requirements of the day, the water, and their ever varying moods, can adapt himself to circumstances as an adept of all styles.

It is one of the leading instructions of the dry-fly master that the disciple shall remain inactive, possessing his soul in patience, andstanding by until the trout are seen to be visibly rising at, and taking, the fly sailing down stream. On Itchen, Test, Kennet, and any other typical chalk stream, the angler may accordingly be observed, for hours together, watching for the rise. The wet-fly fisherman, with his cast of assorted winged, hackled, or spider patterns, like his forefathers, arriving at the waterside, comes into action at once, animated by the hope that the trout, if they give no sign of dimpling ring, are busy below, feeding on trifles borne at varying depths in the current. Should they treat his flies with disdain, at least no opportunity has been wasted. The experienced dry-fly fisherman, where the character of the stream does not forhid, stations himself below the fish, kneeling on the bank to lessen the chances of scaring the shy trout; his aim is to cast his single floating-fly three or four inches above the mentally marked position of a rising fish, and to do this accurately at the first cast. Simple as the operation may appear, it can only be done to perfection by the exercise of long experience and extreme skill. The casting of the line so that the floating-fly shall drop at the precise point aimed at and at once assume the position and appearance of the natural insect, and to do this when and where it will secure the attention of, but without alarming, the alert trout below, is one of the triumphant feats of fly fishing. The whisking of the fly through the air by backward and forward wavings of the rod, and the length of line often necessary for reaching a distant fish, keep the angler in healthy exercise if the rise is protracted. The former tax upon the strength may, however, be lessened, though not quite avoided, by the modern practice , of anointing the fly with odourless paraffin, or some other unguent, by a touch of the camel's-hair brush on hackles and wings; a couple of flourishes will then suffice for drying the fly.

The wet-fly fisherman, who cares for none of these things, has the privilege, at any rate, of being constantly on the move, always hopeful that at least one of his flies will find a trout ; while in the progress of fishing steadily up or down the stream he is able to change his scene with his chances at every hour. The dry-fly fisherman was a South of England product, and was the effect of which the educated trout of the chalk streams was the cause. In other parts of the three kingdoms, the wet-fly fisherman is the rule, but it is a rule the exceptions to which are becoming more and more numerous.

Artificial flies, either for salmon or the smaller game fish, will be treated of hereafter.

A general reference to fly fishing does not end with mention of salmon, salmo trutta, and fresh-water trout. The grayling must have passing attention. This is a fish which, with many undoubted sporting qualities and one special virtue, is not always popular with trout fisher-men. Yet it is one of the freest of surface-feeders, and has all the qualities of a fly-fisher's pet. Having an adipose fin, the gray-ling is, like the smelt, classed among the Salmonidae, but in bodily appearance there is no other resemblance. It, however, gives the same kind of sport, with, generally speaking, the same methods in fly fishing; and the special virtue hinted at above is that, when trout fishing ceases at the end of September, the grayling is at its prime, and may be fished for throughout the winter.

Besides grayling there are a few of the summer spawners, such as dace, bleak, rudd, roach, and chub, which, for want of bettter, are not unworthy the attention of the fly-fisher, the first four with small flies, and the last with large palmers, imitations of moths, bees, and beetles. Only in the hot months, however, is the sport at all worth the trouble of attempting their capture with the tackle intended for higher game.

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